As NH polls open, Romney leads GOP, trails Obama

Voting begins in New Hampshire Republican primary; new poll shows Obama leading all his Republican rivals.

Republican presidential primaries 311 (photo credit: REUTERS/ERIC THAYER)
Republican presidential primaries 311
(photo credit: REUTERS/ERIC THAYER)
MANCHESTER, NH - As polls opened for the Republican presidential primary in New Hampshire Tuesday, all eyes were on Mitt Romney, anticipating if he could win big enough to convince his party he is the best candidate to defeat Democrat Barack Obama.
Romney still trails Obama in the White House race by five point, according to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll releasedT uesday. That puts the President ahead of all Republican candidates, but is also a narrowing down from the 8-point lead he had in December polls.
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Thirty percent of Republicans in the poll would vote for Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, compared to 18 percent a month ago.
His closest rival in the poll was Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House of Representatives, who had 20 percent support, down from 28 percent in December.
Despite Romney's rivals' fierce eleventh-hour attacks that he is a heartless corporate raider who enjoys cutting jobs, the former governor of neighboring Massachusetts carried a sizable poll lead into voting day.
With nearly a 20-point edge in opinion polls, Romney's cushion was sufficient enough to force leading rivals Ron Paul, who appeals to New Hampshire's anti-government strain, and Jon Huntsman, who has campaigned almost exclusively in the state, into a battle to be a strong runner-up.
Rick Santorum, a socially conservative former senator, has trailed in New Hampshire polls despite coming in just behind Romney in Iowa's caucuses last week. Newt Gingrich, a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, is also well behind.
Romney would be the first Republican who is not an incumbent president to win the first two early voting states, after his slim eight-vote victory over former Pennsylvania Senator Santorum a week ago in Iowa.